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ორშაბათი | 08 დეკემბერი, 2014

State capacity in the South Caucasus: How do you measure how much the state can do?

State capacity is a concept which has gained wide interest from political scientists in recent years as an important concept for economic development and regime classification, yet it still lacks agreed upon definitions and indicators. Its definitions vary, with different scholars highlighting different aspects of the concept based on their angle on the subject, but some definitions of state capacity are broader than others. A good example of a broad definition of state capacity is “the state’s ability to implement public policy” (Rogers and Weller, 2014).

The lack of agreement on indicators and definitions is due to the inherent multidimensionality of the concept. This multidimensionality is well exemplified by Fjelde and De Soya’s 2009 article which identifies state capacity as a state’s ability to coerce, co-opt, and cooperate with society. While the authors provide indicators for these capacities, their schema seems more to describe a state’s relationship and interactions with citizens rather than state capacity in and of itself.

The fact that different scholars have theorized different capacities including fiscal capacity, bureaucratic-administrative capacity, and coercive capacity as component parts of state capacity further illuminates the multidimensionality of the concept. This blog post looks at three of the many possible indicators which could be used to gauge state capacity in the South Caucasus: revenue excluding grants as a share of GDP for fiscal capacity, taxes on income, profit, and capital gains as a share of total revenues for bureaucratic-administrative capacity, and military expenditures as a share of central government expenditures for coercive capacity. So, how strong are the South Caucasus states?

Fiscal capacity is considered one of the most important state capacities by most authors as without the financial means to accomplish a stated policy, that policy will likely never be realized in practice. The graph below presents World Bank data for state revenue excluding grants as a share of GDP and shows how much the South Caucasian governments collect from their societies. What appears most prominently is that Azerbaijan’s fiscal capacity far outstrips that of Georgia and Armenia, which exhibit similar levels of extraction. It is important to keep in mind here that revenue consists not only of taxes but also funds collected through fines, fees, and resource rents. The latter are particularly important for Azerbaijan as the government received 54% and 65% of state revenues from oil and gas in 2005 and 2011 respectively. Without its oil wealth, Azerbaijan would collect significantly less in revenues.


Definitions of bureaucratic-administrative capacity often center on a state’s ability to collect and manage information (Hendrix, 2010). This capacity is central to a state’s ability to act and likely enables a state to have fiscal and coercive capacity. For example, if a state is unable to gather information on potential militants within its territory it will be unlikely that it can coerce or co-opt them into compliance. In order to successfully cooperate with society, information gathered must be channeled into usable and comprehendible forms which enable the government to act.

Income, profit, and capital gains taxes as a share of total taxes are a useful indicator of bureaucratic-administrative capacity. While at first glance it may be taken to indicate fiscal capacity, income taxes are more closely related to bureaucratic-administrative capacity, because this form of taxation is both a relatively difficult and relatively desirable tax to collect (Rogers and Weller, 2014). The desirability of income tax stems from the fact that it generally provides a revenue stream which does not drastically fluctuate. In most circumstances, however, it is a relatively difficult tax to collect (though the system of income tax payment by employers has lowered this difficulty in Georgia, Transparency International Georgia has noted that non-compliance with income tax remains problematic). As such, the share of income tax as a percentage of total state revenues proxies how well a state can extract from and manage information on its population. The graph below presents taxes on income, profits and capital gains (two other taxes which are similar to income tax) as a percentage of total taxes collected. The graph demonstrates that Georgia’s bureaucratic-administrative capacity on this measure is higher than that of Armenia or Azerbaijan. While Azerbaijan’s relative weakness in this sector is likely caused by hydrocarbon revenues, Georgia’s relative strength likely comes from the reforms in tax collection and enforcement, which started with the tax code passed in 2005.


A final important capacity of state is its ability to coerce its population; without the capability to put down paramilitaries or suppress violent groups, a state can quickly devolve into chaos. Taking military expenditures as a share of central government expenditures as an indicator of coercive capacity, the graph below gives a possible indication of coercive capacity. This indicator, though, also likely describes the changing relative importance of coercion to each state over time, as one would expect the share of total expenditures dedicated to military expenditures to increase if security issues became relatively more important – hence Georgia’s relatively high expenditures in 2008, which are largely a result of the 2008 August War with Russia. When looking at the figures, it is important to note that Azerbaijan’s budget is significantly larger than either Georgia’s or Armenia’s and as such has a much larger absolute level of coercive capacity.


This blog post has looked at three of the many possible indicators of state capacity. For readers interested in the subject, this 2010 article by Cullen Hendrix goes through a wide variety of indicators, although the data set used does not include any of the South Caucasus countries.

Have any ideas about other indicators? Join the conversation on Facebook or at CRRC-Georgia’s office on December 10th for the Works-in-Progress talk:State/party capacity and constraints on state action: Operationalizing and indexing state capacity in Georgia and Armenia.
12.10.2015 | ორშაბათი

The development of Azerbaijani think tanks and their role in public policy discourse

[Editor's note: This is the fourth in a series of blog posts co-published with On Think Tanks. The views expressed within this blog series are the authors alone, and do not represent the views of CRRC-Georgia.]

By Zaur Shiriyev

The development of local think tanks in Azerbaijan has taken a different route to that followed by most other post-Soviet states and Eastern European countries. In the Eastern Bloc countries, research institutes modeled on Western think tanks became increasingly popular following the collapse of the Soviet Union. However, in Azerbaijan this did not happen, largely due to domestic political developments in the early 1990s.
05.10.2015 | ორშაბათი

Think Tanks in Armenia: Who Needs their Thinking?

[Editor's note: This is the third in a series of blog posts co-published with On Think Tanks. The views expressed within this blog series are the authors alone, and do not represent the views of CRRC-Georgia.]

By Yevgenya Jenny Paturyan

Think tanks are considered to be an important part of civil society: providers and keepers of expertise on important social, economic, environmental, political and other issues. Organizations like Chatham House and Carnegie Endowment for International Peace come to mind. In addition to ‘pure’ think tanks, there is a plethora of organizations that combine research with advocacy and action, Transparency International being a prominent example.
29.09.2015 | სამშაბათი

The lay of the land: An interview with Hans Gutbrod on think tanks in the South Caucasus

[Editor's note: This is the second in a series of blog posts co-published with On Think Tanks. The views expressed within this blog series are the authors alone, and do not represent the views of CRRC-Georgia.]

Interview by Dustin Gilbreath

Dustin Gilbreath: You recently recently pointed out that think tanks in the South Caucasus have come a long way in recent years, but that they still face challenges on some of the fundamentals – quality of research, policy relevance, funding, and operational acumen.  At the national rather than regional level, what are the relative strengths of and challenges before the think tank sector of each country?
28.09.2015 | ორშაბათი

Thinking about think tanks in the South Caucasus

[Editor's note: This is the first in a series of blog posts co-published with On Think Tanks. The views expressed within this blog series are the authors alone, and do not represent the views of CRRC-Georgia]

By: Dustin Gilbreath

Starting from similarly troubled slates at the turn of independence, the South Caucasus countries – Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia – have diverged over the last 25 years, and the region is an interesting case of divergence despite similarity. While in Azerbaijan the government is squeezing the last bit of free expression from the country, Georgia is having its problems but is by far the freest place in the region. Armenia still has space for engagement, but it is not as open as Georgia.
08.08.2015 | შაბათი

What do CB interviewers’ ratings of respondents’ intelligence tell us?

CRRC’s Caucasus Barometer (CB) surveys regularly collect information about how the interviewers assess each of the conducted interviews – so called paradata that provides additional insight into the conditions surrounding the interviews (e.g., whether someone besides the respondent and the interviewer was present during the face-to-face interview), as well as interviewers’ subjective assessments of, for example, level of sincerity of the respondents.
15.06.2015 | ორშაბათი

Trust in institutions in the South Caucasus – generating a combined score

Trust in institutions is a widely studied subject in the social sciences – typing 'trust in institutions' into Google Scholar yields roughly 2.5 million results. It is generally believed to have multi-directional relationships with different aspects of social life, with high levels of trust associated with positive phenomena – acceptance of innovation and a good business environment just to name two.
28.05.2014 | ოთხშაბათი

Smoking in the South Caucasus and tobacco policy in Azerbaijan

May 31st is World No Tobacco Day as declared by the United Nations. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), tobacco usage is the primary reason for chronic diseases including “cancer, lung diseases, cardiovascular diseases” among other diseases.
21.07.2014 | ორშაბათი

Friends and Enemies in the South Caucasus

On 1 April, 2014 the International School of Economics at Tbilisi State University (ISET) published a blog which described a future Transcaucasian Confederation agreement signed by the three South Caucasian states. Despite the fact that the blog was an April Fool’s Day joke, it provoked significant interest and reader response.
03.11.2014 | ორშაბათი

The recent history of the South Caucasus as seen by the world’s media – Part 1, Armenia and Azerbaijan

History has been a qualitative discipline and has often been considered part of the humanities, well, historically, but the emergence of big data is likely to extend the use of quantitative methods in historical research in the long run. Big data projects have aimed at everything from finding out where to pick fruit in your city to mapping the prevalence of AIDS in the United States, but a recent project, Global Database of Events, Language, and Tone (GDELT) has compiled a massive database of print media coverage in over 100 languages including Armenian, Azerbaijani, and Georgian. Originally created by Kalev Leetaru and Philip Schrodt at Georgetown University, the GDELT database contains about a quarter of a billion uniquely coded units starting from 1979.
06.11.2014 | ხუთშაბათი

The recent history of the South Caucasus as seen by the world’s media - Part 2, Georgia

In Monday's blog post, we looked at a snapshot of Armenia and Azerbaijan’s representation in the global media from 1979 to present. Today, we take a look at the third South Caucasus state, Georgia. What are the events that have popped up in Georgia and made international news over the last 35 years?
22.12.2014 | ორშაბათი

Does public opinion accurately gauge government performance in the South Caucasus?

Robert Putnam’s 1993 work Making Democracy Work: Civic Traditions in Modern Italy marked a seminal moment in the development of institutionalism. Putnam’s exhaustive study of the relationship between the governed and governing in the Italian regions contained the discovery that public opinion provides an accurate picture of actual government performance: “The Italians’ gradually increasing satisfaction with the regional governments … corresponded to real differences in performance,” and in each region Putnam’s measurement of performance was “remarkably consistent with the appraisals offered by the regional attentive public and by the electorate as a whole.”
19.10.2015 | ორშაბათი

Do Think Tanks in Georgia Lobby for Foreign Powers?

[Editor's note: This is the fifth in a series of blog posts co-published with On Think Tanks. The views expressed within this blog series are the authors alone and do not represent the views of CRRC-Georgia.]

By Till Bruckner 

If you work on policy issues in a transition or developing country, you probably know the standard line on think tanks by heart. Local think tanks build domestic research capacity, improve policy formulation processes and outcomes, and enrich and enhance democratic debates, thereby contributing to the emergence of more democratic, wealthy, and equitable societies. (Yes, you may copy and paste this into your next fundraising proposal if you wish).
26.10.2015 | ორშაბათი

Common challenges, common solutions

[Editor's note: This is the sixth in a series of blog posts co-published with On Think Tanks. The views expressed within this blog series are the authors alone and do not represent the views of CRRC-Georgia.]

By Dustin Gilbreath 

So far, in this series think tankers working in the South Caucasus have reflected on the issues challenging their countries’ think tank sector. In many ways, some fundamental problems lie at the heart of the specific problems, and I think they can more or less be summed up as problems with language and audience; quality of research; funding; and transparency. This post takes a look at one of these challenges – language and audience – and considers some things that might nudge the region’s think tanks forward.
09.11.2015 | ორშაბათი

Household income and consumption patterns in Georgia

After the collapse of the Georgian economy in the 1990s, the country slowly started to recover, and between 2000 and 2014, the gross national income grew from $3.4 billion to $16.7 billion (in current USD). According to the National Statistics Office of Georgia, the official unemployment rate in Georgia was 12.4% in 2014, but according to numerous surveys the rate is much higher.
07.07.2011 | ხუთშაბათი

Carnegie Research Fellowship Program | Winners Announced

Six scholars from the South Caucasus have been selected to join a prestigious program administered by CRRC and the National Council for Eurasian and East European Research (NCEEER). Carnegie Research Fellowship Program (CRFP) offers local scholars in the social sciences non-degree research opportunities at universities and institutes in the United States.
29.09.2011 | ხუთშაბათი

Is the South Caucasus a homogenous region?

In a recent datablog, the Guardian published a map visualizing how the former Soviet countries are doing 20 years after the fall of the Soviet Union. The map compares the 15 former Soviet countries in terms of economic development, demographics and democratic transition. It also divides the countries into five regions: Russia, the Baltic countries, the EU borderlands, Central Asia and the South Caucasus.
14.10.2011 | პარასკევი

Fancy Living Abroad? 39% of Young Armenians Say "Preferably Forever"

Last year, Ani Navasardyan asked, “Why do so many Armenians leave Armenia?” Migration is also an issue in Georgia and Azerbaijan. Data from the CB 2010 reveals that around half of the respondents in Georgia (47%) and Azerbaijan (52%) are interested in temporary migration. Still, Armenia stands out since 64% of the adult population is open to the idea of temporarily leaving the country.
25.05.2012 | პარასკევი

Women in Parliament: How Do Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan Compare to Other Countries?

Expanding on the topic of a previous blog, this post compares statistics on the number of women in national parliaments in the South Caucasus and other areas of the world. The countries of the South Caucasus rank low on women’s participation in parliament compared to many other countries.
22.07.2010 | ხუთშაბათი

Attitudes toward the West | Caucasus Analytical Digest

Following an article on Georgians’ attitudes toward Russia, CRRC Fellows Therese Svensson and Julia Hon have written a new piece for CAD, entitled “Attitudes toward the West in the South Caucasus”. Their article looks at citizens’ views on three areas of relations — political, economic and cultural — between the South Caucasus and the West, in particular NATO, the US and the EU. The data were derived from the South Caucasus–wide 2007 and 2008 Data Initiatives (DI), as well as from the 2009 EU survey that was conducted in Georgia.
05.11.2010 | პარასკევი

Overcoming Negative Stereotypes in the South Caucasus

CRRC hosted a presentation on October 27 by Onnik Krikorian, a British journalist of part-Armenian descent and the Caucasus editor for Global Voices, entitled “Overcoming Negative Stereotypes in the Caucasus: New and Social Media in cross-border communication and conflict reporting.”
10.12.2010 | პარასკევი

Policy Attitudes towards Women in Azerbaijan: Is Equality Part of the Agenda?

By Yuliya Aliyeva Gureyeva, Baku

The paper published in the 21st edition of the Caucasus Analytical Digest presents an account of how two competing policy approaches coexist in the policy attitudes towards women in Azerbaijan. 
22.07.2008 | სამშაბათი

Caucasus Data: Tolerance towards Others

The CRRC Data Initiative (DI) gives people an opportunity to do interesting cross-country comparisons of the South Caucasus (SC) people’s attitude toward their neighbors. This subject is quite sensitive and complex when thinking of the fact that the SC stands out for its sequence of ethnic conflicts.
30.07.2008 | ოთხშაბათი

Cuil for the Caucasus? A quick test!

As many of you may have heard, this week saw the launch of a competitor to Google. Cuil, which apparently is an old Irish word for knowledge, has been set up by several former Googlists and promises a search that's more oriented on content, and says it can do a more comprehensive job in the ever-expanding worldwide web.
17.09.2008 | ოთხშაბათი

What do Russians think about the situation in Abkhazia and South Ossetia? -- Data Snapshot

How do urban Russians view the conflicts in South Ossetia and Abkhazia? From September, 5th-8th, 2008 the Analytical Center of Yuri Levada conducted a survey in ten big cities of the Russian Federation, interviewing 1000 Russian respondents. We have translated the results into English here, as they are only available in the original Russian on the Levada website.
23.10.2008 | ხუთშაბათი

McCain vs Obama: Caucasus preferences


So here's something that we are a little puzzled about. The Economist is undertaking a poll to see which American Presidential candidate is favored by the world. In a very blue worldwide map, rooting for Obama, two noticeable yellowish spots, Macedonia and Georgia. McCain, of course, is popular in Georgia for having said "Today we all are Georgians" during the recent conflict.
13.11.2008 | ხუთშაბათი

World Economic Forum Gender Gap Index | a few surprises

Indices are engaging and instructive, but some really baffle us. The World Economic Forum (WEF), the organisation that organises the annual high-profile Davos meetings, has come up with a gender index, and the Caucasus is featured. The index is intended to measure how the world is closing the gender gap in education, health, and political and economic participation. In principle, this is a great idea, since there are significant challenges and discrepancies (as our data itself shows).